- Elon Musk‘s Ad Astra school and educational software developer ClassDojo are introducing a set of “Conundrums” for elementary and middle school students.
- The Conundrums involve open-ended critical thinking and ethics challenges.
- They address questions that children may not normally encounter in a standard curriculum.
- ClassDojo shared a couple examples of the new Conundrums with Business Insider.
Elon Musk’s secretive LA private school, Ad Astra, has developed a new tool for teachers and students.
Educational software developer ClassDojo is partnering up with Ad Astra to develop a set of critical thinking puzzles called “Conundrums” that they will release to teachers and students this fall. The tools are meant to offer the type of critical thinking espoused by Ad Astra, although Ad Astra is not using this specific tool.
The Conundrums pose open-ended critical thinking or ethical problems for the students, who are then encouraged to discuss the issues among themselves and reason out a solution. They tend to pose somewhat more nuanced and complicated questions than most elementary or middle school curricula address.
Here are a couple examples of the Conundrums, provided to Business Insider by ClassDojo:
One of the conundrum exercises addresses issues of property rights. A group of cartoon characters discovers a dinosaur skeleton on a neighbour’s land.
Students are reminded to stay open-minded and respectful to each other while discussing the conundrum.
The teacher’s version of the app shows advice for helping students evaluate the task.
The students then see the premise of the conundrum. Three groups — Mojo and his friends, Yosemite National Park, and a farmer — all have possible valid claims to a dinosaur skeleton.
The teacher’s menu in the app allows added twists to the situation. Here, we see the different outcomes for each of the possible claimants to the dinosaur.
Those outcomes add another layer to what was already a thorny ethical question. Questions about ownership and use of resources like the dinosaur skeleton hint at deep issues in ethics, law, and economics.
After students are done discussing the problem, the app prompts them to reflect on the exercise.
The conundrum concludes with an option to share the results with students’ parents through the ClassDojo app.
Here’s another scenario ClassDojo shared with Business Insider. In this Conundrum, one of the cartoon characters buys the Mona Lisa, and students are prompted to discuss whether or not it’s his right to deface the world-famous painting.
The app provides a bit of context for the problem, noting the historical importance of the Mona Lisa.
The Conundrum gets at questions of the limits of property rights, a fairly advanced topic for elementary and middle school students.
Personal property rights are widely considered an important foundation of a liberal society. Questions of the balance between those rights and the social responsibilities that go along with them are at the heart of much post-Enlightenment political philosophy, and introducing those questions to children using cartoon animals is an interesting educational idea.
The ethical conundrum then gets intensified: Do Mojo’s property rights include the right to flat out destroy a crucial piece of Western history?
The exercise, like the dinosaur skeleton conundrum, addresses ethical questions that go beyond what usually ends up discussed in an elementary or middle school classroom.
This article has been updated to clarify that Ad Astra helped develop this tool but does not use it.
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